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U.N. Compliance: Don’t Shoot ... and We Won’t Ask With PM-US-Yugoslavia, Bjt

March 2, 1994

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ To maintain peace in Sarajevo and enforce the ban on heavy weapons, the U.N. strategy seems to be: If the warring parties don’t shoot, we won’t ask questions.

Under last month’s NATO ultimatum, any heavy weapons found within 12 miles of Sarajevo after Feb. 20 were to be subject to air attack.

The Bosnian Serbs and government forces are believed to have complied largely, but not entirely. U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Bill Aikman said six or seven Serb tanks slipped out of the zone early Sunday, driving past U.N. military observers.

Aikman said the United Nations did not even know the tanks were there. He conceded that other heavy weapons might remain hidden in the wooded mountains ringing the city.

″If one round comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere, we’re not going to destroy the world based upon that,″ Aikman said. ″Response will be proportional. People from the area escaping but not firing does not warrant an air strike per se.″

That basically sums up the U.N. position regarding the NATO air-attack option: As long as the Bosnian Serbs do not fire on civilian areas, it is unlikely U.N. commander Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Rose will call in attacks.

Attacks would further complicate intricate political and military steps under way to maintain a Sarajevo peace that has held for nearly three weeks.

Rose has described the peace process in the Bosnian capital as a series of ″confidence-building″ measures aimed at assuring the Bosnian Serbs and the Muslim-led government that neither side will exploit the lull to gain advantage.

That sometimes requires a strategy of two steps forward, one step back. This week the United Nations announced it was reopening the Brotherhood and Unity Bridge, linking Bosnian Serb and government districts, to civilian traffic.

That would enable some families divided by the war to be reunited for the first time in nearly two years. But Bosnian Serbs objected, fearing the others would use the bridge to smuggle weapons to troops who had been advancing slowly on the Serb neighborhood of Grbavica before the Feb. 10 cease-fire.

The Bosnian Serb chief of staff, Gen. Manojlo Milovanovic, threatened to use force to prevent the bridge reopening. Rose backed off for now.

This has been the pattern followed by the United Nations in dealing with the warring sides as it tries to fulfill its twin mandate of delivering humanitarian aid and encouraging peace.

The strategy often has led to frustration, such as aid convoys being blocked or banned from areas for months by the three combatants: Bosnian Serb, Bosnian Croat and government forces.

Rose, who took command here in January, pledged to pursue a more aggressive strategy than his three predecessors. Last week, he said aid convoys would operate with armed escorts and deliver supplies if necessary without consulting with warring parties.

But the three sides are extremely shrewd in dealing with tough-talking U.N. commanders.

On Monday, for example, a Danish aid convoy escorted by Spanish troops was blocked 10 miles outside of Sarajevo by Serb women demanding the release of their husbands held in government areas.

The Spanish troops proceeded to Sarajevo, but the aid convoy remained stranded Tuesday. U.N. officials said privately they were convinced the women were encouraged by local Bosnian Serb officials.

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